REVENUE and customs officials in Dublin Airport received almost €50,000 in penalties from undeclared goods seized from passengers in 2010, new figures released by the Office of the Revenue Commissioner show.

Despite the global economic downturn, newly-purchased items such as a diamond ring worth €7,293, a Rolex watch worth €7,097 and a ladies watch worth €33,630 were all seized by customs officers in Dublin last year.

Items seized from travellers returning from the US alone netted customs a total of €22,258.86 in penalties in 2010. Of this amount, Irish shoppers returning from shopping trips from the US for the Christmas period of 2010 were forced to pay out €2595.16 in penalties, VAT and duty after not declaring good such as iPads, televisions and clothes.

Those returning from US shopping trips who did declare their goods paid a total of €1,349 on clothing and electric goods. The figure for the rest of the world was €23,121.95 for items such as a Versace watch worth €800, a speaker worth €2,734.19, an Armani leather jacket worth €765, a violin to the tune of €14,549 and even an automatic washing machine to the value of €725.

Other unusual foreign purchases include a remote control helicopter costing €16,998 and hairpiece jewellery worth €1,400.

Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) said consumers now need to be aware that customs in Dublin Airport are becoming tougher on travellers.

"For years there has been an extremely slow build-up from customs in taking control and without a doubt we are starting to see an escalation now, and for those who are purchasing items such as Rolex, they need to be aware that it might not exactly be worth it anymore in terms of getting a bargain."

Jewell also says revenue officials need to make regular announcements on what the cut-off point is for goods bought abroad.

"If this is to work efficiently and fairly too, then customs and revenue need to make the occasional announcement about how much exactly you can spend in various destinations."

Current regulations state that travellers to Ireland have exemption from Irish VAT and duty for goods up to a value of €175. Those who do not declare their shopping face penalties amounting to double the VAT and duty.